Friday, July 7, 2017

Buffalo Springs 70.3 2017 Race Report: "Just for Fun" Does Not Mean "Easy"

This is my second race report about Buffalo Springs 70.3 that starts with, "for two months leading up to the race, I tried to figure out how to ask my coach if I could race it." I couldn't think of a reasonable way to approach Emily before Ironman Boulder about doing Buffalo Springs two weeks later, so I let it go. But after Boulder, which was this year's "main event," I started to rationalize. Lots of people race 2 full ironmans 2 weeks apart: this would be just a full and then a half. I didn't even run the whole run at Boulder; my body was probably fine. Maybe I could go to Buffalo Springs to race "just for fun." What do you think, Coach? Of course she said yes, but with a caveat: I was not allowed to have any expectations about my performance.

I found 2 awesome, willing friends, Whiting and Ariana, to travel down to Texas with me for the quickest weekend trip ever. I was thrilled to get on the road for a girls' trip to race my favorite race for the fifth time, meet up with several of my Big Sexy teammates in Lubbock, and see many friends from Texas, including bestie Linda and bff training buddy Michael from San Antonio.

On a mission to "just have fun," I consumed as much Whataburger as possible both pre- and post-race. 
Of course we had our team dinner at Chili's. It was wonderful to see great friends and meet new ones!
My race plan from Emily read like this: Use this race to practice being in the moment, taking what your body is giving you and deal with it. Don't judge good/bad and decide how the day is going to be (i.e., don't write your race report on the bike). Nothing is forever and things can turn around. Coming off a race at Boulder that *did not* turn around, staying positive and in the moment would be key. I don't know how Emily knows that when I lose focus on the bike, I start writing my race report in my head, but it was wonderful to actually be instructed not to do that.

Race morning arrived and we packed up and headed over to the lake. The temperatures were unusually cool and the sky was overcast. It was perfect. We all had plenty of time to rack bikes, snap a few photos, and head down to the lake.

It was simply amazing to race with Linda for the first time in years, as she has been coming back from hip surgery.
I chose to swim in my sleeveless wetsuit for the first time in 3 years. I know that a fullsleeve wetsuit is always faster, but today I cared more about comfort than speed. As I took my first few strokes in that warm lake, I knew I had made the right decision. With the pressure off, I had fun running into the lake with the rest of the 40+ women and racing to the first turn buoy. The swim was smooth and pleasant, and I swam by myself for most of it. For the last stretch into the shore, I was able to draft successfully off another swimmer for the first time this year. I know the swim here is traditionally short and this year was no exception, but when I ran out of the water at 33 minutes, I let out a scream of joy.

EVIDENCE! That I was drafting on the swim. Woo hoo! Thank you Whiting for the pic.
 On to the bike! This is what I had been looking forward to most. I zoomed out of the park at 185 watts, wondered if I could sustain it, but didn't really care. I was having fun racing my bike, leaning into the wind on the flats, charging up the hills, and descending with confidence. As always, I loved looking for my friends on the out-and-back sections and exchanging screams of encouragement with them. After my fueling mishap at Boulder, I was mindful about drinking and eating. My watts started to drop in the second half of the ride, but my smile never faltered. As always, I wanted to go under 3 hours, but even pushing as hard as I could back into the park, I missed it by over a minute. But, you no time during this bike ride was I forcing myself to be positive. Instead, I was actually Having Fun! It felt awesome.

I love this photo taken by Scott Flathouse.
A few miles into the run, my body started telling me that I'd done an ironman a couple of weeks ago. I suppose my legs were also feeling a little bit of overbiking at this race. My pace slowed, but I was determined to fuel correctly and run the whole run, and I accomplished both of those goals.

With a 2:17 run split, it might surprise you to hear that I feel like I raced the run. The out-and-back sections on this run course always allow you to know where you are compared to others. I first saw teammate Mike running down the big hill at mile 3 while I was running up it. We exchanged a high five and I yelled that I was coming for him. A minute later, a friend from San Antonio, Lexa, ran past me. I know that she's a fast runner, so it didn't surprise me, but at that point I went into race mode. Let's see how small I can keep the gap between us. On my way back down the hill, I saw Linda running up. Although she is one of my best friends, there was no way I was going to let her catch me. The race was on.

Big Sexy himself was out on the run course snapping selfies. With him out there, I was not about to walk an inch or stop smiling for a second (especially after my bad behavior on the run course in Boulder).
I never caught up with Mike. Lexa put some time into me but not as much as I expected, and I held Linda off. I was happy to cross the finish line just under 6 hours, which was not my best time at this race, but not my worst either. Lexa, Linda, and I chattered enthusiastically after the race about how each of us pushed the others to excel. This is what I love about racing; we brought out the best in each other! It was also incredibly refreshing that we were all honest about it, as females are often taught that it's impolite to appear to be competitive.

The day was perfect. The race was fun because I had no expectations for how the day was going to go, which allowed me to take some chances on the bike and have some fun on the run racing other people instead of worrying (too much) about the clock. I also made the surprising, important discovery that "fun" does not have to mean "easy." When I told Emily how much fun I had because I had no pressure of expectations, she gently reminded me that this is all supposed to be fun. That's why we do it, right? If you focus on having fun pushing yourself, in training and in racing, you get faster. Simple.

I'm so glad that I raced Buffalo Springs "just for fun" this year. Part of the reason that I wanted to go was that I was afraid the race would be cancelled, like so many other races have been lately. Luckily, registration is already open for next year's race, so we get at least one more year of awesome racing in Lubbock. It's definitely on my 2018 schedule, not as an afterthought, but as a main event. If you haven't raced there already, you need to put it on your list too. Hopefully I'll see you there next June!